An A3 is a structured problem-solving approach that relies on the scientific method. This process allows users to deepen their thinking around an issue and collaborate with others to understand the problem and create a plan to resolve it. While the term A3 actually refers to the size of the paper that is typically used, it is important to remember that an A3 is a process and a tool, not merely a form to complete.
Here are some tips for working on an A3:
Go to the Gemba
When working on an A3 you must go to the gemba. The gemba is the place where the work is being done and is the place that holds your answers. Going to observe the work will help give you an accurate picture of the current state.
Get Others Involved
An A3 should not be completed by just one person. It is important to get others involved in the problem-solving process, particularly stakeholders involved in the work. Input from others will provide multiple perspectives that will help create a full picture of the problem and the countermeasures. Also, involving those that are impacted by the problem will help you gain buy-in to the proposed solution.
Rely on Data
Data collection is imperative throughout the A3 process. All too often people think they understand the problem, so they neglect to examine the data and therefore end up solving the wrong problem. Data can help you understand the current state and will help to determine whether the countermeasures put in place were effective.
Set Measurable Targets
In order to determine whether the problem has actually been solved you have to set goals that can be measured. Questions you should ask yourself are, “What is the target?” and “How will we measure that?” Sometimes it can be challenging to set targets that are specific enough to be measured. Achieving more or less of something is not an ideal target. It is better to think about how much, by when. It can also be challenging to determine where, or how to get the right data that will let you know if you have met the target.
Remember to Follow Up
Following up is one of the most overlooked steps in the A3 process. It’s understandable, because there is never a shortage of problems to solve. However, if you don’t take time to follow up on the countermeasures put in place you will not really understand if the problem has been solved. Be deliberate about follow up. Set dates to check in on it. Once follow up is done and the desired outcome has been achieved you can move on to the next problem or improvement.
Whether you have been using the A3 process for problem-solving for years, or are just starting out, following these tips will help you identify the problem, get buy-in and input from those that the problem impacts, and determine whether the countermeasures put in place have produced the desired outcome.
What tips have you learned while using the A3 thinking process?
Introduction to A3 Thinking course in Catalysis Academy